Sustainable development is a complex task that put people right at the centre of attention. Their analyses, dialogue, images, competences, planning, investments and actions are to define a society’s joint economic, social and ecological goals.
Communication and effective information dissemination in this context must be a pre-requisite and an instrument of effective policymaking and public participation.
Communication serves information exchange, establishing consensus among divergent opinions and interests, and facilitates the building of expertise, decision making and action capacities at the heart of the delicate cooperation between government, civil society groups and the private sector.
An effective strategy for sustainable development brings together the aspirations and capacities of government, civil society and the private sector to create a vision for the future, and to work tactically and progressively towards it.
Focusing on what is realistically achievable; an effective strategy will benefit from comprehensive understanding.
Bringing existing initiatives closer to an effective strategy for sustainable development might involve complementing them with a broad umbrella (a vision and set of co-coordinated mechanisms and processes to improve their complementarily, smooth out inconsistencies) and fill gaps when needed.
In practice, many countries have taken the approach, which include development plans, poverty reduction strategies or action plans, national green plans, decentralized planning and consultation processes.
Communicating sustainable development proved to be difficult.
Many decision makers did not know how to incorporate a communication strategy in their policy or project life cycles and, hence, are not willing to invest in this.
But there are some principles, which strategies should aspire and it encompass a set of desirable processes and outcomes that allow for local differences.
An effective strategy involves a people-centered approach, ensuring long-term favourable impacts on deprived and marginalized groups, such as the poor.
It also more likely to be successful when they have a long-term vision with a clear timeframe upon which stakeholders agree.
It needs diligent budget process to ensure that plans have the financial resources to achieve their objectives.
Strategies should seek to integrate, where possible, economic, social and environmental objectives and in some cases where integration cannot achieve, tradeoffs need to be negotiated.
Sustainable development is a complex goal and the development of a strategy for sustainable development is therefore a complex process.
Effective engagement of stakeholders depends to a great extent on their understanding of the goal and acceptance that involvement in the strategy process demands changes in attitudes, behaviour and institutions.
Developing a strategy demands two-way communication between policy-makers and the public.
It requires much more than public relations initiatives through information campaigns and the media.
It needs commitment to long-term social interaction to achieve a shared understanding of sustainable development and its implications, and promoting capacity building to find solutions to the challenges.